Barnard first-year Lizy Cary pictured celebrating her 19th birthday at college blowing out candles and celebrating with friends, not lugging a cart full of her belongings to a new building due to the unlivable conditions in her dorm room from a leak. Cary is one of many students displaced due to water damage issues from the rain, with the worst damage occurring in Barnard’s oldest dormitory, Brooks Hall.
Residing in a combo double (two rooms connected with a shared common room), Cary noticed some holes in the ceiling by the window and shelf area after moving in. The common room and other roommates in her double did not have damage, although their room’s leaks began affecting her shelf area and continued as rain poured in New York City this semester.
“It started leaking on our shelf area and all of the shelves got drenched with water. We had to put paper towels, and they were soaking and the water was literally dripping off of the paper towels,” Cary said. “Every morning the ceiling was getting darker with water. It would just keep spreading over my roommate’s bed because her bed is by the window. It actually started dripping on her bed and she had to move her bed into our common room.”
Cary reports that she was continuously calling facilities and that a Barnard custodian would come in, look at the damage, take pictures, and then leave. They lived with the drenched shelf for one week, and Cary’s roommate dealt with water continuously dripping on her bed for two days before being relocated.
Cary received the email telling her she was being relocated to the 12th floor of the 600 building on 116th st. around 5:30 pm, 30 minutes after Barnard Residential Life & Housing (ResLife) and Facilities closed for the day. Cary and her roommate were left to move their items themselves.
“I think in the beginning the email correspondence was very dismissive,” says Cary. “They gave us towels, but when we had to move, it was not accessible for us to move the cart up the stairs, they didn’t have a ramp out or anything.”
Brooks Hall was constructed in 1907, making it 116 years old and the oldest freshman dormitory. Parents question the cost of housing when each Barnard dorm has different amenities, with some even asking Barnard President Laura Rosenbury in the Q&A portion of her presentation during Family Weekend.
“We shouldn’t have to pay the same amount as the students in other dorms who don’t have to deal with a leak damaging their stuff, but I don’t think the school is gonna budge on that,” says Cary. “My parents were very frustrated.”
Margaret Bourne, also a Barnard first-year and Brooks resident, experienced similar leaking issues. After noticing some leaking on the wall after a period of rain, paint bubbles full of water emerged on the wall. When maintenance workers came to investigate the leakage, they removed the columns in her wall and replaced them with a temporary wall. The maintenance workers waited until the next rainfall occurred, which showed the full extent of the issue in Bourne’s room.
“The rain came back and there was a lot of water,” says Bourne. “We ordered a lot of towels for maintenance, who were helpful. Saturday night, my roommate slept in our common room because the water was on her side of the room and there was so much water on the floor. That next Sunday night, it got worse.”
Bourne and her roommate dealt with the flooding issues for two weekends with the water flowing in on and out in varying levels based on rain patterns. Bourne notes that since both ResLife and Facilities offices were closed on the weekends, she decided to call CARES to inform them that they no longer wanted to stay in their room.
“I think maintenance did a good job,” says Bourne. “ I had a hard time with ResLife online, but when I went and spoke to people in person, I always had a great interaction. But it required coordination on our part, to talk to CARES and to Facilities and to Reslife over the weekend, which was challenging.
Brooke Kaye, a Barnard first-year and Brooks Hall resident living in a triple, was relocated to live in a Sulzberger common room on September 28th due to a board by her bed that held a pipe that was contributing to leaking directly below her room. Kaye and her roommates had beds brought down, along with drawers, desks and curtains separating the three of their spaces.
“I just received an email that said ‘you have to move to this fourth-floor lounge of Sulzberger by a certain day,’” says Kaye. “I started moving all my clothes and everything down there. I was annoyed because it was midterms week. I was worried that it would affect my performance.”
This is the second time common rooms have been occupied with overnight guests at Barnard this semester, the first being during a first-week-of-school heatwave, when un-airconditioned students sought refuge in the more modern, better-equipped Sulzberger building. Barnard common rooms, which are designated public spaces, contain couches, a television, and a kitchen equipped with a stove, sink and microwave.
Though living in an unconventional space, Kaye and her roommates made the best of their situation.
“There was a big wall in the lounge, just a whitespace, and one of my roommates had a projector,” says Kaye. “She used the projector and we all watched Twilight with a couple of friends.
As of this week, Cary, Bourne and Kaye have all moved back into their Brooks dorms after two to three weeks of displacement. Each student also reported that although stressful, moving brought them closer to their roommates as this served as a shared bonding experience.
“It was obviously a stressful situation,” says Bourne. “And things were not as efficient as they could have been, but maintenance takes time and it was an emergent situation. So I tried to have a good attitude.”